So much …

So much has happened this last month … I don’t even know where to start.

First thing is that Gerry’s Dad passed away. He had been battling cancer for a long time and we lost him on Jan 2nd. Richard was a really lovely father-in-law. He was kind and generous and I see a lot of Richard in my husband who is also kind and generous.

Gerry’s Dad was diagnosed about a year and a 1/2 before I was. The hardest part about going through my cancer treatment was knowing that I was keeping Gerry away from spending more time with his Dad. Gerry’s parents live on the mainland and it takes 3-4 hours in the car (and ferry) to get from here to there and back again and there were times that I was so unwell I couldn’t travel but once the worst of the chemo was over – Gerry was able to sneak over on his motorcycle and visit.

Once I recovered from my chemo/radiation and that horrible Tamoxifen debacle – we were able to go over to the mainland quite often. While we all knew that Richard was terminal and we were bracing for the end – it was still a bit of a shock when it happened. We miss him very much.

So this last month has been about trying to keep things mellow. We have been laying low and just rolling with the waves of grief. Some days are easier than others.

Mid-January marks 2 years when I found my lump through a self-check. I am so thankful to the universe for that lightening bolt of pain that I felt that made me go take a good look at my breast.

I wrote about how I found my lump HERE. If you haven’t read it – give it a read and then do me a favour?? Check your breasts. Cancer doesn’t care if you’re Male, Female or Non-Binary. Do it right now. If you don’t know how – check out this graphic and then do it. For me. Check for lumps. If you find anything … go immediately to your doctor.

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It’s a weird anniversary for me. I’m so happy to be here, happy and healthy but also still so shell-shocked from everything that’s happened the last 2 years. It’s not easy to process.

This time last year I was recovering from my horrible radiation burns (I won’t give you the link for those. Nobody needs to re-visit what that was like). I was so burned from radiation that I couldn’t wear clothing and I was in much pain and needed something to distract me – so Gerry moved the bed into the living room and we started binge watching LOST. We watched all 121 episodes. Sometimes watching up to 5 a day (ha ha).

Speaking of LOST – Gerry and I are heading to Oahu today!! :) We have some awesome friends with a condo on the island and they are letting us stay there so we can do some much needed recuperating. Gerry has already mapped out all of the LOST set locations that we can visit. Ha ha. We need this.

I wish we could take Fergus with us and go for a month but unfortunately they have strict animal quarantine rules laws – so we will be gone for 9 days while he’s at home with my friend Kolina of Sit & Stay dog sitting. Kolina will Sit & Stay at your house so your dog will be comfortable at home while you’re away. She’s wonderful. :)

My other little bit of good news is that I was recruited by one of the Aquafit Instructors to take a course the Y offers to learn how to be an instructor!! WHAT! ME??? So last week I started their Fitness Leadership Training Program.

It’s weird being back in “school” and having to read a text book … I am not great with learning in a classroom. I’m more of a “jump in and do it” learner but so far it’s going ok. They are really amenable to all different kinds of learning types. My goal is to learn how to be an Aquafit Instructor and then volunteer to instruct the Encore Program.

It’s hard to believe that my first Encore was just a year ago! I mentioned this in my last post but cancer treatment can be a very isolating experience and Encore opened a door to physical health and peer support that I never had before. It has given me back my body!! I have never felt so fit and strong!! :) It’s all so damn exciting. Wish me luck!

Now if you’ll excuse me – I have a plane to catch. “We have to get back to the island!!” (LOST reference)

Watch my Instagram feed for photos of our trip! :)
I won’t be blogging until I’m back! Aloha!

 

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Hippie Foods

A few months ago I got an e-mail from Hippie Foods asking if I’d like to try their products out. I NEVER say no to free food (ha ha). I had already tried their Hippie Coconut Chip snacks but the gift basket arrived I was shocked to see they had so many other products!! I had no idea. YUM!

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Hippie Foods  is a family of vegan, organic, gluten free products. My philosophy with pre-packed food has always been that if you can’t pronounce the items in the ingredients list – you shouldn’t put it in your body. The best part of Hippie Foods products (besides tasting awesome) is that there is nothing artificial in their ingredients list. They are made from pure, simple, organic whole food ingredients.

The Coconut Chips are insane. The ingredients are:  Coconut, cane sugar and sea salt. That’s it. They are delicious and I may or may not have eaten the entire package in one sitting without sharing.  :)

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The Cookies are awesome. Moist, delish and best of all … there is nothing but pure organic ingredients in them. My fav out of the three cookies are the Lemon Coconut. The ingredient list is: almonds, agave syrup, coconut, coconut oil,  vanilla and Himalayan crystal salt. SO GOOD!

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The Granola. I wish I could tell you how good this was … but Gerry ate them all before I got a chance to try them. Ha ha. He assures me they are all delicious. It should be noted that this granola is Oat Free.

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Lastly the Garden Chips. I have to say – I didn’t like these at first bite – but they grew on me. They are similar to kale chips in that veggie slices have been turned into chips. I think I was more put off by how they looked. They were clumped together in a mass at the bottom of the bag and didn’t look very appealing but just like kale chips … they were wickedly addictive and as I sit here writing about them my mouth is watering and wishing I had more. ;)

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Hippie Food products are not available outside of Canada (yet) but if you’re in Canada – then check your local healthfood store and grocery store for their products.

Here’s the coolest thing about Hippie Foods. I told them about my Encore Class that I do at the YWCA. For those of you who don’t know – Encore is an 8-week gentle exercise program for women who have experienced a diagnosis of breast cancer. The programme offers specifically designed hydrotherapy and land-based exercises; healthy lifestyle information; peer support and a Y membership during the program.

This is my 3rd time going through Encore and I love every minute of it. Cancer treatment can be a very isolating experience and Encore opened a door to physical health and peer support that I never had before. I love it.

ANYWAY…  when I told Hippie Foods about my Encore class and asked if they would like to provide some snacks for us for after we exercise … they sent me a GIANT box of goodies. Enough to last us the whole 8 weeks of class. Isn’t that wonderful??

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Thank you Hippie Foods for supporting Encore. Thank you!!

BUT WAIT!! There’s more!! :)

Hippie Foods wants to give away one of their fabulous Hippie Foods gift baskets to YOU. So the first person (you must live in Canada) to comment on this post will get a gift basket from Hippie Foods!! Congrats to Graeme C!! Put on your eating pants because you won the Gift Basket!!  :)

Oh my god. My stomach. I just ate an entire bag of Coconut Chips while I was typing out this blog post.  ha ha.

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My office …

10403565_10152536390656971_8309220510656938968_nThis is my office. Right now it’s being used to store stock from my store. Ugh. :(

I would love some help with it … Would love to see the floor again. :)

The quickest way you can help me is to hop online to store.govegan.net and buy some products. Use the code: GOVEGAN and you’ll get 50% off your order.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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Transition …

I’ve been in a weird head space lately. I was warned by my cancer counselor that this “limbo” feeling was coming as I transition from patient to survivor. I just didn’t expect it to feel so weird.

My days are pretty simple. Get up. Go to water aerobics. Visit the tattoo shop and talk to Gerry about any errands he needs me to run. Come home. Get dressed. Walk the dog. Run errands. Make dinner. Rinse. Repeat. I like the simplicity of it all … but as I get farther away from my cancer treatment I am starting to feel pressure to reconstruct.

Everyone asks me when I’m going to reconstruct – like it’s the obvious next step after you have a breast removed. Like “why wouldn’t you want to reconstruct? Don’t you want to be whole again?

Well … truth is I’ve been thinking about deconstructing instead.

We went and talked to a plastic surgeon. It was our 2nd time going to talk about our options. The first time was right before my mastectomy. I was hoping I could find a way for the surgeon to save my breast – but when we realized that the tumor was as big as an avocado pit it was obvious to me that we needed to do a full mastectomy.

At the time I asked the surgeon if we should do both. I had a gut feeling that I wouldn’t like being asymmetrical but he talked me out of it. He suggested that it was too big of a decision to make and because I was already going to lose one breast that I should get used to it before I decide. Get through my chemo. Get through my radiation and then recover before I made any rash decisions.

I understand and appreciate what he was saying to me … but I wish I had listened to my gut because I find having one breast very uncomfortable.

The plastic surgeon looked at my remaining breast and asked me if I had had any work done to it. I said “Why? Because it’s so fabulous?” She agreed. She told me it was a beautiful breast and what a shame I had to lose the right one.

It’s true. My breasts (now breast) are beautiful. It’s probably the only thing on my body that I love. Isn’t it weird that I had to cut one off? Maybe the universe wants me to love the WHOLE PACKAGE!!

Anyway – the surgeon looked at my “area” and pulled on my love-handles and on my Buddha belly and told me I had a few options:

First important bit of information you need to understand:
Because I have had radiation – my “area” is forever compromised. It doesn’t matter if I wait a year or 10 years. It is FOREVER compromised. That means it won’t heal like the rest of my body would from surgery. So because of that she can’t just pop a breast implant in there and send me on my way.

First choice is: Latissimus dorsi flap

151096-3The latissimus dorsi flap moves muscle and skin from your upper back when extra tissue is needed.

The flap is made up of skin, fat, muscle, and blood vessels. It’s tunneled under the skin to the front of the chest.

This creates a pocket for an implant, which can be used for added fullness to the reconstructed breast. Though it’s not common, some women may have weakness in their back, shoulder, or arm after this surgery. The surgeon stated that it could effect my swimming/exercise and would require multiple surgeries. NO THANK YOU! Next.

151096-1My second choice is a: TRAM (transverse rectus abdominis muscle) flap.

The TRAM flap procedure uses tissue and muscle from the tummy (the lower abdominal wall). The tissue from this area alone is often enough to shape the breast, so that an implant may not be needed. The skin, fat, blood vessels, and at least one abdominal muscle are moved from the belly (abdomen) to the chest.

The TRAM flap can decrease the strength in your belly. The procedure also results in a tightening of the lower belly, or a “tummy tuck.” All the surgeons I have met have looked at me and smiled when they describe this procedure as a tummy tuck!! Who doesn’t want that??

The answer? ME!

It’s a 7-8 hour surgery with a 6-8 week recovery time. I asked my surgeon what the pain was like from this surgery and she said it was VERY different from the mastectomy pain I had. There was almost no pain when I had my breast removed but she said that recovering from 2x different surgeries on the same day can be quite painful – especially when recovering from abdominal incisions.

So besides the pain/suffering and recovery time – I have also seen in person a number of these surgeries and they all look ummmm… OK. I am happy for the women who are happy with their surgery but the majority of the women who I’ve met who have had this surgery are just “ok” with it.

None of them are over the moon about it and when I look at them – I just see an asymmetrical chest. These constructed breasts never looks like the other breast. I think it would drive me insane.

Third choice: Do nothing. Wearing a prosthetic.
Wearing a prosthetic makes my chest feel like it’s bruised (more on that later) so I can’t imagine putting something permanent under my skin that I can’t take off when I need a break.

So what are my choices if I decide not to do reconstruction. I can wear a prosthetic. I have tried all kinds of prosthetics. The first one I purchased was almost $500 and sticks to my chest wall. It fills my bra and once it’s under clothing it looks just like a real breast.

But my “area” is still so sensitive that I can only wear it for about 30 minutes before it makes my chest-wall ache. You know that rotten feeling when you press on a bruise? That’s what it feels like. So that expensive experiment went back into the box almost immediately. Worst money ever spent. Anyone need a C-cup prosthetic? I can give you a good deal on it. :)

I also purchased a $125 prosthetic silicone form that is lighter. It works pretty well but again the weight of it is uncomfortable against my chest.

I have now switched to a Handful Sports bra (love this bra) and a $13 foam insert. So far it works the best for me … and I have been trying to just get used to being a “uni-boob” but even a year and a half later since my mastectomy I am still uncomfortable in my body.

I don’t have one single day when I’m not thinking/feeling/stressing about wearing a prosthetic. Is it in the right spot. Is it high enough. Low enough. Full enough. UGH!

Fourth choice: Do nothing. Wear nothing.
I tried for a few months to just be a uni-boob. It doesn’t work. It’s just as uncomfortable for me as wearing a prosthetic.

So I started exploring “deconstruction”. I’ve brought it up with every doctor/nurse who asks me when I’m going to reconstruct. Almost all of them look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them I want to go flat. I feel like if I removed my other breast that it would be so much easier for me to move forward with my life.

I joined a group on FB called Flat & Fabulous. It’s women from all over the world who have had mastectomies talking about their experiences. A lot of them tried to do reconstruction and had issues because of their radiated tissue. Either they had complications from the surgery, difficulty healing their “area” and had to have multiple surgeries to fix or remove more tissue. Many of them have chosen to go flat and are finding ways to be empowered in their new bodies.

It’s been great to have a group like this to read about others experiences. It makes me feel less weird about wanting to deconstruct.

screen-capture-2Breasts are like earrings. They come in pairs. For me – having one breast is like wearing one earring. It doesn’t work. Only Prince can get away with wearing one earring.  :)

Breasts come in two and for me the “having breasts” part of my life is over. It’s done. But my life isn’t over.

I want to move forward and be comfortable in my body.

My mastectomy wasn’t easy – but it also wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Recovery was quick. I was up and out of bed walking around. I barely had any pain. When I think about having the other side done – it feels like the best choice for me.

I keep having daydreams about getting dressed in the morning. I throw on a tank-top and walk out the door. Easy breezy and rocking a flat chest. I know I can rock it. :)

I was talking to a friend about my choices and she said “But if you remove your breast – what if you regret it?” I don’t think she gets it. I am already missing a breast. Missing my other one is not that big of a stretch. And if I don’t like being flat – I can wear my $13 dollar prosthetic for both. I kind of feel like wearing 2x foam inserts would easier than one because they’d be the same.

Anyhoo… I’m still mulling things over. My therapist wants me to wait a year before I decide to do it. She suggested that having “procedures” seems normal to me. I’ve just spent the last 2 years having daily/weekly procedures done. But having major surgery isn’t “normal” and so she wants me to wait a little longer so I can really think about it.

Truth is I’ve been thinking about deconstructing my chest since I woke up from my mastectomy surgery…

One thing I have realized from all my cancer treatment is that I just want my life to be easy and comfortable. If it’s too much work or it makes me feel uncomfortable – I don’t want it in my life and this left-over breast of mine is getting in my way!

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Handful

10831957_680184352097241_1359357649_n-1I have been on the search for a comfortable bra that can hold my prosthetic.

Even though it’s been a year since I did radiation my “area” is still incredibly sensitive and I can’t wear a bra or anything that’s too tight across my chest or it’s very uncomfortable.

I’ve tried all kinds of bras, tank tops and “mastectomy gear” and nothing has been comfortable for me.

Anything I do find that is comfortable against my chest – doesn’t hold my prosthetic properly and I end up with my foob (fake boob) in my armpit or the center of my chest. Yikes!

I don’t remember how I stumbled onto the Handful Bra website – but I am so glad I found them. This is THE MOST COMFORTABLE sports bra but unlike most sports bras it flatters your shape and doesn’t make you look like you have a uni-boob. It looks great under t-shirts, blouses, dresses … etc.

Plus it is designed to hold a breast prosthetic if you choose to wear one or you can use the interior pocket to hide mad-money (ha ha). Love this bra!!

Now I need to get one in every colour. :)

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1 year ago…

10868274_10152452571001971_1133836071624032303_nA year ago today I did my last radiation and started the long arduous journey of recovering from cancer treatment.

I’m feeling great today. Full of piss and vinegar. So grateful to be alive!!

#recoveryfromcancertreatmentisafulltimejob

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NY Times

screen-capture-1My cancer story was included in a NY Times breast cancer project.

Read it HERE or click the photo.

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Horse Drawn Carriages Have Got To GO!!!

I was walking through the neighbourhood and a horse-drawn carriage rode by. Everyone in the back of the carriage waved at me with big smiles and said hi.

I smiled back and said “You do realize that this horse is a slave. He’s your slave that you bought and paid for.

The dude driving the carriage said “The horse actually likes to do this…

I said “No he doesn’t. Horses don’t like walking through busy downtown streets surrounded by traffic pulling 5 people with his nose near a car tailpipe. Get real. These horses deserve to be in a field frolicking around but instead you have paid a wage and this horse is now your slave. SHAME ON YOU!

A video posted by Sarah Kramer (@govegandotnet) on

He likes pulling a carriage.

I looked at the passengers in the back and said “Did you know that there is an accident with a carriage horse at least once a month? Did you know that 2 years ago a horse was spooked in China Town and the driver fell off and the passenger in the back fell out and broke her arm. Do you realize that the horse was terrified?

He got clipped by a car.” The carriage driver said.

Yes. Exactly. And that’s why these horses don’t belong in downtown traffic. Shame on you for doing this job. Shame on you 4 in the back for paying for slavery. Shame on you.”

I really wish that the City of Victoria would realize that having Horse-Drawn Carriages in downtown is a black spot on our tourism. I hope the new mayor Lisa Helps will end the slavery and close down the horse-drawn carriages. They are not cute, or romantic. Please give these horses the freedom they deserve.

I encourage all of you to write a letter to the mayor: mayor@victoria.ca We are a tourist city and ALL voices (both local and from around the world) matter to our city.

The exploitation of animals will not stop unless we speak up – we are the voice for the animals.

Hey Hey. Ho Ho. The Horse Drawn Carriage has GOT TO GO!

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LOST SOCK SIGN!!

This is our first KRAMER VS KRAMER collaboration!!

-6The last time I was in Toronto I helped my best friend Shoshana organize her laundry room.

We had SO much fun (Yes, I love organizing/cleaning that much) that I wanted to make her something that would remind her of our fun time together!

I asked my Gerry if he would collaborate with me on a project. We came up with a fun idea, Gerry did an amazing water colour dragon painting, I made prints, assembled the sign, hand-wove the clothing line and Voila!!

The LOST SOCKS sign. We have them for sale in my store HERE.

Tell me what you think??  :)

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This and that …

I haven’t been blogging lately. Mostly because not much has been going on. I mean … that’s not true … I’m very busy. :)

The last little while I’ve fallen into a great schedule where I ride my bike down to Tattoo Zoo with Gerry in the morning and I go do Water Aerobics (yes every day) at the YWCA. Then I ride my bike home. Take Fergus for a long walk, make lunch and then run a few errands and head back downtown to pick up Gerry from work so we can get groceries and come home.

It’s the SAME routine pretty much every day and I have to say it’s pretty amazing having energy to do those few things. :)

I have decided to only do things that make me feel good and don’t stress me out. Life feels pretty sweet and simple right now and I’m enjoying every second of it.

Water Aerobics has really changed everything. It’s made me stronger, my stamina is SO much better and working out in the water every day makes me feel amazing and really helps with any residual joint/bone pane from my treatment last year.

I still have “claw hands” … but it’s a lot better. I am pretty sure the cancer treatment has given me mild arthritis and so it takes a few minutes to warm up my hands and feet in the morning but once I get going – everything is ok.

891515_680829175364535_660609408_nA few weeks ago I went to SWIMCO to look for a new suit and the ladies there were SO helpful. There is nothing more horrifying then looking for a new bathing-suit – especially when you only have one boob!! :)

Because I don’t wear a prosthetic in the pool I wanted a simple suit without foam cups so I can rock my uni-boob in the pool. I always seem to buy bathing suits 1 size too large and the ladies there made sure the suit I found fitted me properly.

I love my new Speedo suit!! And I’m going back to  SWIMCO to get another suit. I’m a swimming maniac!!

I gained about 20lbs last year during my cancer treatment and because it knocked me into menopause it’s been difficult to get the weight off. It’s not my main goal (to lose the weight) but when you lose a breast, lose ALL your hair and gain 20lbs … it’s difficult to keep your self esteem. I just want my waist back!!!

Last week I was standing in the kitchen (naked) making my morning smoothie and Gerry said “LOOK! Your waist is back!!” It made me feel good that all my hard work is paying off. I’m hoping that very soon I will be able to fit back into my closet full of beautiful clothes that are just sitting there taunting me. ;)

Right now I’m focused on getting STRONG. I love getting in the water every morning and working all my muscles. And all the older ladies in the water who gave me “poo poo” faces when I first started – now smile at me and give me advice.

One woman (I’d say she’s early 70’s) came up to me in the shower and pointed at my chest. “Breast cancer?” I looked down and put my hand up to my mastectomy scar. “Yes. I finished treatment a year ago.”

She put her hand up against her mastectomy scar and patted it firmly. “Me too. We’re sisters, you and I.” I smiled … She said “I’m 18 years out from my diagnosis and I think about it every day but I don’t let it stop me from enjoying my life and you shouldn’t either.”

I almost hugged her (except that we were naked in a public shower) but what a lovely thing to say. Wow. Makes me tear up when I think about it.

10755825_1502051463377474_2128354543_nI’ve also been hanging out with Dwight a lot. :)

Both of Dwight’s humans work full time jobs and so he’s home alone quite a bit so I offered my babysitting services.

I try and take the boys to Willows Beach whenever possible. It’s my fav place to go because they can be off leash and you don’t have to worry about cars. Basically it’s dog Nirvana… especially right now because there is a dead seal on the beach and Fergus LOVES to roll in dead things.

What a couple of jerks. :)

So despite the fact that my car has a mild odour of dead seal … life smells pretty sweet right now.

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